LDP seeks opposition’s support on Okinawa

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will meet this evening with Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the largest opposition party, Shinshinto, to ask for cooperation over his government’s plan to revise a law on land expropriation for U.S. military bases in Okinawa, officials said Apr. 1.

Hashimoto is likely to ask Ozawa for help in his bid to revise a law that would allow the government to secure land in Okinawa Prefecture for U.S. military forces after land leases expire on May 14. It is considered unusual for Hashimoto to arrange such a meeting before consulting with the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party’s allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake.

Hashimoto, who heads a minority government, apparently hopes to gain support from outside the ruling bloc for revision of the 1952 land expropriation law, which governs the supply of land for U.S. troops, at a time when the SDP is expected to oppose it. Some senior members of the ruling party said Apr. 1 that the LDP should not hesitate to seek support from opposition forces to have the law revised without fail.

Meanwhile, no support for the planned law revision was voiced at a general meeting of SDP lawmakers late Apr. 1. They maintained that the SDP should stick to its long-standing antibase policy and should vote against the government-proposed bill, which is likely to oblige Okinawa to host U.S. troops in the future as well.

However, the SDP members also agreed not to leave the ruling bloc but to maintain cooperative relations with the LDP in regards to other issues. “There will be neither contradiction nor treachery against the LDP because the SDP formed a loose union in October with the ruling party under an agreement that said the two parties would cooperate with each other in specific policy areas, even though we could remain apart on others, including some Okinawa-related issues,” Ito said during the meeting.